I have always felt that life would have been a lot happier with family and relatives around rather than changing cities customarily, which comes at the expense of missing many important milestones and experiences of life. It’s not just the story of an individual, but the predicaments of millions of Biharis residing in the other states who often think of leaving everything and going back home but couldn’t muster the courage.
In 2005, when the world was thinking of exploring space tourism and moving towards artificial intelligence, my village got electricity. I have been away from my house since I was 5 years old and now, when I am almost 28, I am still away from my home, far away from the vicinity of my state in a pigeon-sized flat while my considerably larger house back in the village remains isolated and yearns for more people.
Being a migrant is not something which comes as a fortune, it’s the compulsion of millions of people like me who just can’t return to our village as we have a family to feed and almost a bleak opportunity back in state to earn a livelihood—apart from appearing for some random government services. For the same reason, I feel thousands of Biharis qualifying for the civil services examination is not something which we should be very proud of as it comes on the cost of low opportunities in the other field often resulting in depression and migration.
But the bigger question is, who’s responsible for such plight? I will try to answer this through my experiences and knowledge-sharing.
The biggest fallacy is we, the people of Bihar, have the most contribution in the downfall of the state which was once the centre of learning in South-Asia and was the birthplace of three major religions: Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. The majority of people in Bihar have always been casteist and extremely politically opinionated resulting in sending representatives to the lower house with only one motive—to elect someone who will be the flag-bearer of their caste.
These flag-bearers often created an army of sycophants whose rationale remained to enrich the party’s treasure to fund the upcoming or other elections (Panchayats, Zila Parsishads) where someone from their caste or family was getting nominated. This vicious cycle continued resulting in widespread kidnapping, demand for ransoms, and murders which affected major industries and crumbled manufacturing sectors.
The change of power in the name of Nitish Kumar came with a lot of hope and the due credit must be given to JDU for improving the law and order, and transport networks in the state, but the issue of migration and establishment of modern industries was something which was never demanded and never appeared in any political party’s manifestos. Sadly, the equation to power remains the same even now—caste.
Bihar did far better during the British era, at least as far as industrialization was concerned, with major manufacturing units in Sitamarhi, Samastipur (sugarcane productions), Jamalpur (railway engine manufacturing), Bhagalpur (silk industry), Patna, Baruini (fertilizers and cement plants). But after independence, when the focus shifted to creating SEZ zones, Bihar took a backseat with its rich minerals getting exploited due to unfair tax-regulations and easy mining which made it effortless to mine and export the unfinished goods to the states which had coastal lines.
Many companies and states sharing the coast benefited, leaving Bihar poor and downcast.
Living across different cities, I have come across many instances where I have been subjected to stereotyping arising from the widespread negativity about the Biharis usurping jobs and agreeing to work at a minimal rate. The same doesn’t qualify for the argument as far as economics is concerned, and it’s often the lethargy which makes them come with such excuses influenced by the rhetorical speeches of the politicians.
The austerity which thousands of daily wage earners migrants displayed in taking a long journey on foot and bicycles just to reach their village, their home, is worth pondering. Sooner or later, they will return. They have to return to cater to their hunger. But, those who find solace back in their homes have my envy of not being so intrepid.